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Previews of upcoming releases and special screenings

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STORY WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER 
For Digital First Media

Dope

“Dope” might best be described as an urban, coming of age film for the post-hip hop generation. The tagline for the film is, “It’s hard out here for a geek.”

Malcom (Shameik Moore) is a self-described geek. The African-American teen is struggling to survive the mean streets of The Bottoms, a rough section of Inglewood, California.

Now a high school senior, Malcolm aspires to attend Harvard. His more refined sensibilities put him at odds with the harsh realities of life in the ghetto.

Malcolm and his two best friends, Jib (Tony Revlori, the bellboy in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons), share a penchant for phenomena usually associated with more mainstream white culture. This includes BMX biking and striving for academic success. It’s not hard to understand why the trio is socially ostracized by their peers and subjected to constant bullying.

In this image released by Open Road Films, Shameik Moore stars as Malcolm in a scene from, "Dope." (Rachel Morrison/Open Road Films via AP)

In this image released by Open Road Films, Shameik Moore stars as Malcolm in a scene from, “Dope.” (Rachel Morrison/Open Road Films via AP)

Following a chance encounter, a local drug dealer, Dom (rapper A$AP Rocky, making his screen debut), decides to exploit Malcolm as a go-between. Dom wants Malcolm to help him win over a local beauty, Nakia (Zoe Kravitz).

At an underground party, things spin wildly out of control. A backroom drug deal escalates into a gun fight. In a pinch, Dom stashes $100,000 of Ecstasy into Malcolm’s backpack. Now, goody two shoes Malcolm and his equally innocent side-kicks are plunged into a dangerous new world.

“Dope” is the latest film from Rick Famuyiwa. Previously, Famuyiwa wrote and directed “The Wood,” “Talk to Me,” and Brown Sugar.” As an adolescent, Famuyiwa moved with his family from their native Nigeria to Inglewood. His films explore the issues of racial identity, alienation, and the value of friendship. “The Wood” bears a strong autobiographical stamp.  From all indications. ”Dope” is similarly informed by Famuyiwa’s experiences as a teen pariah.

“Dope” made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, where it elicited a strongly favorable response. It then closed the Director’s Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival. Thus far, the advance reviews have been glowing.

Opens wide on Friday, June 19.  R (for language, drug content, sexuality/nudity, and some violence-all involving teens) 115 minutes. Open Road Films.

Inside Out

You don’t have many animated films opening at the Cannes Film Festival. However, that’s where “Inside Out,” the latest film from Disney Pixar, made its auspicious debut out of competition.

Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) is enjoying her life as an 11-year old girl, growing up in Minnesota. Then, one day, everything changes. Riley’s dad (Kyle MacLachlin) announces that he is about to start a new job in San Francisco. Riley’s whole life is uprooted as her family, including mom (Diane Lane), must move to the West Coast.

Each of us has conflicting emotions swirling around inside of us. The conceit of “Inside Out” is that this amalgam of disembodied emotions is reduced to five discrete, corporeal entities. The quintet includes Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). These characters maintain an active dialogue inside of the control center in Riley’s head.

When Riley struggles with her new life in San Francisco, Sadness and Joy are both displaced from the control center, where they are supposed to repose. They become lost inside of Riley’s mind. Riley can no longer access these key emotions. As a consequence, internal turmoil ensues.

The impressive vocal cast also includes Paula Poundstone; Bobby Moynihan; Richard Kind; Muppeteers, Frank Oz and Dave Golez; and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And what Pixar film would be complete without John Ratzenberger on hand?  Not to miss out on all the fun, director/co-screenwriter, Pete Docter, plays Anger’s father; writer, Josh Cooley, plays Jangles the Clown; while co-director, Ronnie del Carmen, provides a spate of voices.

Thus far, “Inside Out” has won nearly unanimous critical praise. You say that you’re still not won over yet? The film includes the credit, “Dedicated to our children. Don’t grow up.”

Opens wide June 19. PG (for mild thematic elements and some action) 94 minutes Disney Pixar

Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at lernerprose@gmail.com.

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